Various Artists

The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection [Time Life]

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In the context of popular music, a ballad is usually a slow song dealing with either romance or an emotional occasion. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a broader interpretation, defining it as "a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing" -- in other words, a song. The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection must have been compiled with the latter in mind -- why else would the box set open with Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger"? The confusion is a constant theme throughout the set's eight discs; while it boasts plenty of sentimental moments, the mood is frequently broken with the appearance of more rousing numbers and, occasionally, some downright bizarre inclusions. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "All the Young Dudes," "More Than a Feeling," "The Final Countdown," and "In a Big Country" are all fun songs, but their inclusion in a collection of ballads is dubious at best. There's also the issue of repetitiveness -- several artists are featured several times, sometimes on the same disc. What's frustrating is that it's not a bad collection of songs; they're all the original versions performed by the original artists, and the track listing is well done. Still, it's a letdown to expect one thing and get quite another, as is the case with The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection. Time Life would have done better to declare this set The Best of Stadium Rock -- or settle on a definition of "ballad" that doesn't equate to "anything with a beat and a tune."

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